St-Émilion Part 3: Macaron Sweets and Panoramic Treats

Extracted from St-Émilion’s underworld (last post), our EU Austerity Drinking Tour continues above ground.  Too sick to drink, we wander.  Gates and walls gird every corner of this hill-town.


No invite.

You almost expect a bouncer with sunglasses to stand there.  But when each bottle costs a thousand bucks, these vines become too valuable for tourists to traipse through and take selfies (#vineyardselfies).

St Emilion Sign

Only visible from your private helicopter.

Almost bored by all the brilliance, we walk around another Romanesque ruin abutting another Grand Cru vineyard.


It is almost monotonous.

But then, on the city’s edge, we also discover the birthplace of macarons.  In 1620, while Pilgrims were landing in Plymouth, this bakery started selling macarons.



No.  Not those balls of shredded coconut.  Instead, think of almond flour, of Marie Antoinette, of fine china piled with multi-colored, multi-flavored, magical mounds.  This is where they began:


What’s left at least…

These are more than just cookies.  But to give these deserts their due, we head to the convent where they were born.


Not the vines! The convent!

Obscured (unsurprisingly) by yet another vineyard, hangs the ruined convent that gave the world the macaron.

But we want a better look.  This will do:


Oh look! Another vineyard…

Through another vineyard, we crawl inside bedrock and head up the medieval stairs.

St Emilion Spelunking

Eyes adjust after a bit.

Once again, from the top.

But then what do they taste like Julia Child?  Here, in their autocthonous home.

Origins indeed!

Then, I remember this is a wine blog…

And for the sake of the view….

Drunk on sun and macarons, we stumble back into town.  I stop myself from buying Premier Grand Cru vine saplings:


Must. Resist.

We avoid bottles from extravagant wine shops.  For this glittering, limestone gem of a UNSCO city eats tourists.  Posh château owners hang out in posh bars impressing suited distribution CEOs.  Pale, plump German tourists point and photograph everything.

Before, religious pilgrims pumped money into the village, seeking salvation on their way to Spain.  Troglodyte tunnels became subterranean cathedrals.  That money fed macaron-making nuns and vineyard-tending growers.  The city becames desirable, traded hands, and even became British for a stint in the 1150s.

Today St-Émilion is a tidy time-capsule.  Modernity and money creep into its empty churches.  Endless green vines enclose it like a collar.  It’s an amazing place.



About waywardwine

Follow Wayward Wine (WSET3) to tour the world's exciting vineyards, breweries, and distilleries, while discovering new drinks.
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2 Responses to St-Émilion Part 3: Macaron Sweets and Panoramic Treats

  1. sand110 says:

    So many questions, did you interview vintners, makers of macaroons, love the peaceful quality of region: is population balanced? Is there development encroaching on number of vineyards?
    Great reviews. Wonder if macaroons were favored by king and court?

    • waywardwine says:

      The last three posts cover one day, really 5 hours. It is very peaceful (although touristic) almost timeless in St Emilion. The vineyards are king and it is one of the few places in Bordeaux without apartments complexes. So don’t worry. St-Emilion is a time capsule. It’s safe!

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